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Published on February 16th, 2016 | by M. Morford

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M. Morford on the methanol plant scoping session

It was Tacoma’s off-with-their-heads moment.

For a project the size and scale of the proposed methanol plant – the largest on the planet – layers and layers of permits, requirements and authorizations must be approved and hearings, public and confidential, must be held.

As of February 15, 2016, there have been two public ‘Scoping Sessions’ – intended to gauge community response to the project (a third is scheduled for February 24). These public meetings are required by law and are usually routine and barely noticed by the public.  

Not this time.

The first meeting at Tacoma’s Convention hall was in a room with a capacity of 400; well over a thousand citizens showed up. The second meeting was in a room with a capacity of 1,400. It was nearly full. But it was not the size of the crowd that was so stunning – it was the mood. The piercing sense of deception and betrayal was tangible. Frustration, rage, and disbelief were nearly constant.

The pained questions never stopped; How could they make these decisions? Who was really behind this deal? What kind of collusion, corruption, malfeasance and outright deception was at work here? Where was my representative leadership? Who was making these decisions, and on what grounds and in whose name? Who was selling Tacoma’s soul, identity, future, and yes, destiny at such a pitiful, pathetic price?

The questions to ask regarding any major issue are ‘who profits?’ and ‘who pays?’ And the answer is almost always the same. The answer is almost always what it should never be in a decent, civil, and fair community: the rich and powerful profit and the poor and powerless pay. The poor pay with their livelihoods, their health, and sometimes their children.

Money changes hands, deals are signed in back rooms, staggering profits are made, and, a few years later, the company leaves and the poor live in, breathe in – or in the case of Flint, Michigan, drink in – the toxic legacy of decisions made in the name of money.

In an era when we barely trust our own government, with its (mostly) free and fair elections, balance of powers, and legislative process, does it make sense that we would bet our community’s health, reputation, and future in the hands of a government completely unaccountable to its own citizens, let alone US citizens?

I’ve lived in China. I’ve seen their inadequate and dangerous building standards, their disregard for work safety, and their response to commonly accepted environmental practices. Chinese construction accidents (usually with multiple fatalities and lingering environmental contamination) are the stuff of legend . I’ve seen (and worked in) their schools that collapse and kill children by the hundreds.

UWT is hosting a discussion on the science and technology of the methanol plant in Tacoma. I can’t help feeling that this is a distraction. Citizens are not primarily irate because of the science of the project, but because most people feel sucker-punched by the political process.

We don’t want to see another reminder of local cronyism and the slimy backroom deals that made Tacoma a poster child for small town corruption and graft. It’s not about the science – it’s about the violation of trust, disregard for an open, accountable, political process, and perhaps most of all, it’s a failure of vision of who and what Tacoma is becoming.

Perhaps the UW Tacoma political science department should host a series of sessions on how to avoid public relations disasters like the one our city leaders and Port commissioners find themselves in. Tacoma is becoming a place more and more of us are appreciating. Most of us are no longer willing to have our location, our resources, and our citizens sold to the lowest bidder.

Tacoma is home, it is not for sale.

Abraham Lincoln spoke of government of the people, by the people and for the people. This political process to allow the methanol plant is a violation of each one of these phrases. It takes a lot to stir people of Tacoma to call for the resignation or dismissal of public officials, (accompanied by crowds cheering) but we saw it February 10, 2016. Citizens of Tacoma have a long history of passivity and complacency, but those days, like the days of toxic, extractive industries are long gone.

All I can say is, three cheers for the new Tacoma!

I love living in a town I can be proud of. May we never see the weak, polluted T-Town grovelling  for dangerous and dehumanizing jobs ever again.

 

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, community story-teller, poet, advocate of the oddities of earthly existence. Scavenger of the unlikely.



19 Responses to M. Morford on the methanol plant scoping session

  1. Phil says:

    Beautiful!

  2. Phil says:

    It’s also about the science. Methanol doesn’t play well with such things as oxygen, static, or even itself. Ironically, the chemical suits employees will be required to wear, cannot be synthetic-based. NWIW is proposing to hold over 600 million pounds of it in tank farms in the middle of Tacoma.

    • Stretch says:

      I have to agree with Renee. The valley is where you see the Lord and grow closer to Him. How selfish would we be if we only praised Him on the moinatuntops? I’m sure her faith is beyond phenomenal and an inspiration to many. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of her book.You know I get your newsletter & connect on FB

  3. Lee Heath says:

    Finally a well written piece that hits the nail on the head. Thank You!
    #nomethanoltacoma #methanol253 #notnownotever #tacomanotforsale

  4. Dan says:

    Well done, Morf.

    Hoping that opposition stiffens, beyond what it is already. Do people know where their voices need to be heard. Local officials deny any responsibility and perhaps their lack of responsibility should be recognized when it’s time to voted. Jeannie Darneille shared a good call to arms, but what other elected official wants to be the one to offend the Chinese government?

  5. susan says:

    thank you

  6. Rita says:

    You said it perfectly!

  7. “It’s not about the science – it’s about the violation of trust, disregard for an open, accountable, political process, and perhaps most of all, it’s a failure of vision of who and what Tacoma is becoming.” — This is a very powerful statement and it perfectly and succinctly captures the very heart of the issue. Thank you for your words. Great writing.

  8. Helen says:

    Really great article. Thank you! 🙂

  9. Susan says:

    Thank you, Mr. Morford this captures exactly what people are feeling and I hope you sent it to every single public official that will have any bearing upon this process. My father was a State Senator in Nebraska for 24 years and he said we have to keep showing up enmasse as their constituents. Its the only thing that will get their attention and if enough public pressure comes to bear, it will have an impact.
    We will be attending the Port Commissioners meeting today at Noon and hope to see lots of people there. Thank you again and keep writing!

  10. Connie Sparks says:

    I love this incredible article, absolutely astounding! You covered everything that everyone is thinking, probably even more so.

    Don’t ever stop writing!

  11. Karen Meisenburg says:

    Thank you…..

    • Josie says:

      That’s way the besestt answer so far!

    • http://www./ says:

      Wow, this is great, thanks again. Brooks and Ty Taylor did great on the CD but I love Brian d’Arcy James and Billy Porter.Please, please, please tell me you have Brian singing “She Cries” and/or Billy singing “Flying Home”!

    • http://www./ says:

      All of your photos here are beautiful. I really love them all. And sheesh—Has it been THAT long since I've visited? It's GORGEOUS in here!I read two books this summer. I only remember the one I liked a lot–Raising Cee Cee Honeycutt. Loved it.

  12. Sylvia Murray says:

    Thank you. Your words are powerful and eloquent. We need all of Tacoma to take notice!

  13. Jeanne says:

    Knegdolwe wants to be free, just like these articles!

  14. http://www./ says:

    I’m decently familiar with what developers had to go through to program games on the Atari 2600, and yes, that’s what I meant. A version of Joust exists on it – a simple version of Smash Brothers (gameplay, not graphics obviously) could have been done on it.

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